On Tuesday, we published our initial list of vulnerable House Republicans we’re targeting in 2020 so Democrats can increase our newly won majority. These include super-tight races that weren’t decided until well after Election Day, like the battle in Georgia’s 7th; districts that were never really a focus this cycle but wound up with unexpectedly close results, like Missouri’s 2nd; and contests that never quite took off but where the fundamentals suggest a real opportunity, like in New York’s 24th.
Below, we’ll explain how we settled on each of these 12 races out of a much larger list of potentially competitive GOP-held districts.
Rob Woodall (R): 50.1%
Carolyn Bourdeaux (D): 49.9%
(2016: 51-45 Trump; 2012: 60-38 Romney)
After Woodall sleepwalked his way through the campaign, Bourdeaux came just 419 votes short of handing the incumbent the defeat he had so casually dismissed before the election. Not only did this wind up the closest House race in the nation after a recount, this suburban Atlanta district is also one of the most diverse that’s held by a Republican, and Democrat Stacey Abrams carried the 7th in 2018's gubernatorial race. Democrats now have a great opportunity to finish the job in 2020 with the help of presidential-year turnout.
Rodney Davis (R): 50.5%
Betsy Dirksen Londrigan (D): 49.5%
(2016: 50-44 Trump; 2012: 48.9-48.6 Romney)
After two disappointing results for Democrats in 2014 and 2016, this district returned to its competitive ways in 2018. This seat includes strongly blue turf like the University of Illinois and the state capital of Springfield, but is balanced out by large swaths of rural central Illinois. If Democratic enthusiasm remains high in 2020, this seat should be winnable.
Fred Upton (R): 50.2%
Matt Longjohn (D): 45.7%
(2016: 51-43 Trump; 2012: 50-49 Romney)
Upton had comfortably won this Kalamazoo-based district ever since his first election in 1986, but he just faced by far the closest race of his career, earning barely more than 50 percent of the vote. Retirement rumors have swirled around the veteran incumbent for a long time, and in the face of another highly competitive race, he may decide it’s time to go. But even if he runs for re-election, this seat will be the top offensive target for Michigan Democrats in 2020.
Jim Hagedorn (R): 50.2%
Dan Feehan (D): 49.8%
(2016: 53-38 Trump; 2012: 50-48 Obama)
One of just two House seats to flip from Democrat to Republican in 2018, Minnesota's 1st was by far the closer of the two, with Feehan falling just 1,315 votes short. Hagedorn, who has a history of misogynist online writings and birther ramblings, is far from an impressive candidate, and Democrats’ best shot will be to take him out now before he can become a fixture. Parts of this southern Minnesota district are trending away from Democrats, but there’s still enough Democratic strength here to win the seat.
Ann Wagner (R): 51.3%
Cort VanOstran (D): 47.1%
(2016: 53-42 Trump; 2012: 57-41 Romney)
Wagner won this affluent suburban St. Louis seat by more than 20 points the three previous cycles, but though she never really became a national target, she only managed a 4-point victory this year. This district was gerrymandered to be safely Republican, but anti-Trump sentiment in the suburbs has made it a prime target. It won’t be overlooked again in 2020.
Don Bacon (R): 51.0%
Kara Eastman (D): 49.0%
(2016: 48-46 Trump; 2012: 53-46 Romney)
This Omaha-based district only gave Trump 48 percent of the vote and has been extremely tight the past three cycles. A hard-fought Democratic primary put Eastman behind the eight-ball a bit, but her 49 percent was still an impressive result, especially since she didn't get much outside help. 2020 is a top opportunity to take out Bacon before he becomes further entrenched.
New York's 24th
John Katko (R): 53.1%
Dana Balter (D): 46.9%
(2016: 49-45 Clinton; 2012: 57-41 Obama)
Among these dozen seats, New York's 24th saw both Clinton’s largest margin of victory in 2016 and the Republican incumbent’s largest margin of victory in 2018. Katko’s success has been frustrating in a district that has consistently voted Democratic at the presidential level, but as we saw in so many other places this year, that tightrope-walk works right up until it doesn’t. Trump only received 45 percent of the vote here, so 2020 will offer a prime opportunity to knock off Katko with the two sharing a ballot.
Steve Chabot (R): 51.8%
Aftab Pureval (D): 46.4%
(2016: 51-45 Trump; 2012: 52-46 Romney)
A seemingly small but widely-covered campaign finance scandal weakened Democratic chances in Ohio's 1st this year, but Pureval's 5-point margin despite the issue means this district should remain a top target for Democrats. Chabot has held this office for all but one term since 1994, and he's term-limited as the ranking member of the House Small Business Committee, so he might be inclined to head for the exits.
Brian Fitzpatrick (R): 51.3%
Scott Wallace (D): 48.7%
(2016: 49-47 Clinton; 2012: 50-49 Obama)
The second of three Clinton seats on this list, this Bucks County-based district has been highly contested for a number of cycles. The wealthy Wallace was hurt by criticisms of his foundation and a biography that didn’t relate well to Bucks County voters, but he still came within a couple points of victory. A stronger candidate would provide Democrats with an even better opportunity to take out Fitzpatrick.
Scott Perry (R): 51.4%
George Scott (D): 48.6%
(2016: 52-43 Trump; 2012: 53-46 Romney)
This district wasn’t on anybody’s radar until the Pennsylvania Supreme Court struck down the previous Republican gerrymander and created a Harrisburg-based seat that was much more competitive. This district was always a lower priority than others in Pennsylvania, but the close final margin shows that it’s winnable for Democrats, particularly now with a full cycle to target it. Perry also remains the far-right ideologue he’s always been, and he’s even seeking to lead the House Freedom Caucus.
Will Hurd (R): 49.2%
Gina Ortiz Jones (D): 48.7%
(2016: 50-46 Clinton; 2012: 51-48 Romney)
Unlike some of the seats on this list, Texas’ 23rd has been uber-competitive since the Supreme Court forced a redraw of the district in 2006. Since then, it’s seen five different incumbents and five single-digit finishes, and that pattern doesn't look likely to change anytime soon. Hurd is a strong candidate, but he’s never broken 50 percent. With presidential turnout, we can expect a surge in Latino turnout that will help Democrats finish the job
Jaime Herrera Beutler (R): 52.7%
Carolyn Long (D): 47.3%
(2016: 50-43 Trump; 2012: 50-48 Romney)
This is a district that’s been on the fringes of competitiveness for a number of years and finally came on the board when Republicans only managed a combined 51 percent of the vote in the top-two primary in August, which is often correlated with general election results in Washington. While Republican performance improved slightly in November, this seat should become increasingly competitive as its population base around Vancouver continues to grow. After flipping Washington’s 8th this cycle, this seat is now the Democrats' best offensive target in the Pacific Northwest.
Of course, it’s still extremely early, so this target list is apt to change as we learn more about the playing field. But even though Election Day 2020 is still quite a ways off, we already have a good sense of where Republicans will be most vulnerable.
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